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Posts Tagged ‘ecology’

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Doug Chadwick, wildlife biologist and author, spoke last night at the Patagonia store in Westport CT, sharing excerpts from his new book, Tracking Gobi Grizzlies. I enjoyed Doug’s last book, The Wolverine Way, which I wrote about in 2010. I was excited to hear about his work with the Gobi Bear Project, and I’m looking forward to reading more about the Gobi Grizzlies, what he calls “the dustiest, thirstiest, and rarest bears in the world.”

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Theirs is an improbably existence, in a wind-swept rocky and mountainous desert that ranges from -40 in the winter to about 120° F in the summer. There may be as few as 35-40 of these bears in the world, and they are the only bears that live exclusively in deserts. The Gobi Grizzly is the same species as the North American Grizzly Bear, Ursus arctos, but a smaller subspecies, called Ursus arctos gobiensis.

The study and conservation work takes place in southern Mongolia, and efforts are focused (not surprisingly) on minimizing conflicts with humans and livestock, and reducing both competition for water resources and impact of land development and mining operations. The bears’ current range is contained within the “Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area”, which is about 5 times the size of Yellowstone National Park. Efforts of biologists from the project are focused on learning more about the bears, protecting the ones left, and protecting wildlife corridors for the bears to move back into habitat that may have been in their historical range, but is now separated by land that may be developed for mining. This is similar to work that Doug has been promoting for some time now, with the Freedom to Roam and the Yellowstone to Yukon initiatives.

I enjoy Doug’s writing voice, and it was nice to hear his storytelling voice as well. He’s a self described optimist, and while he recognizes the obstacles and hard work ahead, he has hope for conservation efforts to support biodiversity in the long run. Doug heads back West soon with upcoming talks in Dillon, Montana and Seattle, Washington, and if that’s your neighborhood, it’s worth popping in to say hi and give a listen. I’m looking forward to reading this book.

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It’s always good to get outside. And having the Long Island Sound 15 minutes away makes partnering with the Maritime Aquarium a great fit. Their new research vessel RV Spirit of the Sound is gorgeous. A plankton survey, benthic bio dredge, and otter trawl gave us plenty to measure and discuss. Students and teachers alike were happy to be out and getting their hands dirty!


 

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I just finished up a week in Montana and Wyoming with a group of ninth graders, studying the history of wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone, learning a bit more about the wildlife while we were here. We booked part of our program with the Yellowstone Association, the education arm of the park, and I would highly recommend them for educational groups or for any visitors looking for informative and helpful guides. They were like classroom/field trip teachers for three days; they got to know our students, and they really knew their stuff when it came to natural history, archaeology, geology, and ecology of the region. They also provided transportation in short tour vans, binoculars, and spotting scopes. As our students had been studying wolf reintroduction, the Association arranged for us to meet with two ranchers up in the Gardiner Valley, Martin Davis and Bruce Malcolm. The conversations with these gentlemen helped us all to gain some perspective on the complexity of the issues surrounding wolves, hunting, ranching, ecology, and economics; the students and teachers alike were moved by their equanimity, common sense, and insight. The ranching life is not one that too many of our students are familiar with, and it was eye opening for them (and me).

The week started out snowy and in the 20s, but got a bit warmer and sunnier each day. It is April in Northern Wyoming!

It was a pretty incredible trip.

Roosevelt Arch Yellowstone 4-22-13

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mammoth springs in snow 4-22-13

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group photo mammoth springs 4-22-13

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scanning for wolves 4-23-13

moose and calf Lamar Valley 4-23-13

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We finished the field component of the predator-prey ecology class this week in the Daly Creek drainage, Montana, Yellowstone National Park. We worked to collect information on how elk browsing habits related to physical barriers in aspen stands affects recruitment of aspen saplings. Here’s a bit of what we saw.

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image via montana.edu

I’m in Bozeman this week for an MSSE class on predator-prey ecology, which I’m really psyched about. Two (long) days in the classroom, and three days out in the field in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley. I walked around campus this afternoon, got my bearings, and I’m looking forward to a good burger before I settle in for some light reading on trophic cascades, carrying capacities, isoclines, and the paradox of enrichment. I haven’t seen any elk or wolves yet, but when I do I’ll post some pictures.

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Really interesting and thought provoking TED talk (is that redundant?) by Jae Rhim Lee on a kind of “mushroom death suit,” that will help recycle you. Quirky? Sure. But she raises some really good questions about our current burial practices and suggests a more green alternative.

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My seventh grade class is currently studying the ecology of the Long Island Sound, and we’ve been talking about bioaccumulation. I stumbled across this TED talk from last April by Stephen Palumbi called Following the Mercury Trail. It turns out to be more about PCBs than mercury, but it dovetailed nicely with what we’re covering in class, tying together the issues of bioaccumulation, toxic contaminants, and pathogens. It’s definitely worth a watch.

Stephen Palumbi: Following the Mercury Trail

Related posts:

Red fish, green fish: What you need to know about seafood ratings, from The Environmental Magazine and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

TED – The Mission Blue Voyage

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